Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The End So Soon?

Yes. I'm afraid it's true. Life hit, and I just can't keep up with all the reviews. My reading rate has drastically decreased, and I can't find the time to write the reviews so quickly. So, I'm integrating the book reviews into my other blog on a rotating basis.

I'd like to apologize to those of you who read this when I post reviews, but rest assured, I will be posting reviews along with other random things about living in the UK and writing! It's just been too much for me to keep up with 2 blogs. I have a hard enough time keeping up with my main one. But, I've created a new bi-weekly schedule that will include a mix of things such as book reviews and interviews with authors/writers. I may even get the gumption to do a contest. We'll see...

So, if you're interested in that, follow me on the other blog! And thanks for following the reviews here and commenting. I'll move over these reviews as some point, but will start the new schedule with ones you haven't seen before. :)

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Review: Specials by Scott Westerfeld

Specials by Scott Westerfeld
US Pub. Date: 11 September 2007 (Paperback)
UK Pub. Date: 6 November 2006 (Paperback)
400 pages (US version)
Genre: Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian

After having read the previous two books in this series, I couldn't wait to read Specials. This book is the final book in a trilogy centering on the main character, Tally Youngblood(1). It starts out where Pretties left off, this time following a group of teens called the "Specials". I won't give away who makes up that group or what they do, because that would be spoilerish. I will say, however, that the main themes that have run throughout the series continue in this one.

One critique I have of the series in general is that the books seem to follow the same pattern of growth, and this was somewhat unsatisfying to me, because I felt like all the growth I'd seen in the previous books were discounted so that the characters could have a lower point from which to start.

Otherwise, Specials was very action-packed, well-developed, and exciting. I found myself so attached to these characters that I hadn't started out liking that I cried in certain parts of the book. Anyone who knows me will realize that's a big deal. I rarely cry while reading books.

The ending not only left me satisfied, but changed. It left me with lots of questions about society, myself, and what we all do to make ourselves attractive. How far would we go? Would we give up ourselves, our sense of independence? Would we give up our freedoms? Out of context, these questions probably seem superficial (I mean, why would I give up my freedom just to be pretty?), but after you read the books, I think you will understand where I am coming from.

I enjoyed this series immensely, and would recommend it to anyone, really. There was humor, action, great characterization, and a tiny bit of romance.

  1. There is actually a fourth book in this series, which I have not read but plan to soon. The fourth books doesn't center on the main characters from the trilogy, but they apparently make appearances throughout.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Review: Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
US Pub. Date: 1 November 2005 (Paperback)
UK Pub. Date: 3 July 2006 (Paperback)
384 pages (US version)
Genre: Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian

Pretties seemed to follow much the same formula as Uglies, but perhaps with less action. Once again, I didn't find this book life-altering, but I wasn't looking for that. It's a good escapist book, and it reads very quickly. I liked the descriptions of people and locations, as it made things easy to imagine. The same theme from Uglies seemed to run through Pretties, but possibly with a stronger focus on choice and personal strength/will. I appreciated how Westerfeld didn't just make all the teens compliant with the powers that be. Instead, the characters seem real, fighting for independence while still trying to figure out who they are and what they are made of.

On the downside, I didn't feel extremely fulfilled by the ending, but I had the same feeling with Uglies, and it's probably (hopefully) due to my not having finished the trilogy yet. I found the characters more annoying in this book than in Uglies, but I think that might have been part of the author's intent. Overall, however, I enjoyed reading the book. I wasn't reading from a literary critic standpoint or with the idea that I was finding the next great piece of literature. If that's something you are seeking, I probably wouldn't expect you to like these books in general. It is a great way to escape to the future with a group of teens who have some decent adventures and grow (albeit, it the same way they grew in Uglies) from the beginning to the end.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Review: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
US Pub. Date: 8 February 2005 (Paperback)
UK Pub. Date: 8 July 2005 (Paperback)
448 pages (US version)
Genre: Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian

Note: The next several posts will be about the books in this series. Although I have read all the books, I will write the reviews from my perspective after I finished each one instead of going back with the mindset of having read the whole series. I think it's important, because my opinions and the way the story affected me changed as I kept reading.

I chose this book because it was recommended to me based on some other books I had read. After reading the back of the book, it sounded like it would have good escapism potential, which is the main reason I read. Uglies filled this need. I was easily swept up in the story and plot line from the first chapter. Tally's voice was strong and my younger self (the "me" from the old days) immediately felt a connection to her, wanting to find out more about her life in a world in which I wasn't familiar. The idea of the book, a society which is obsessed with looks for reasons you discover later on, was intriguing to me. Westerfeld did a wonderful job raising questions about what it means to be pretty and how that affects your happiness. The message was there without being in your face, which I appreciated, and I think teenagers would appreciate as well. 

I also enjoyed the other cast of characters, although I found it difficult at times to identify with them (unlike my connection with Tally). There is definitely a struggle between two groups of people here. Those who want to keep the world "pretty" and those who don't. It wasn't immediately obvious what was going on, which allowed me to raise questions, get more interested in the story, and, ultimately, continue reading the other books in the series. All in all, this was a good, quick read. There was a good amount of action along with some character development. Although the message is a serious one, I wouldn't say it transformed my life, but wasn't looking for a book that would do that.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
US Pub. Date: 9 December 2003 (Hardback)
UK Pub. Date: 2 May 2006 (Paperback)
416 pages (US version)
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Historical

This is the first in a series of three books about Gemma Doyle, a wealthy late-Victorian teenager who is sent to a finishing school outside London after some mysterious events lead to the death of her mother in India. The first book is kind of a lead-in to the next two books, and introduces the main characters that appear throughout the series. 

 Gemma is an outcast at first, but comes to make some friends throughout this book. She also discovers that there are supernatural things happening to her and in the surrounding areas. So, the series covers her realization of herself as a person and as something more. She really kind of grows up over the course of the trilogy. I thought this book was a little more superficial than the next two in the series, but really, once you keep reading, it becomes apparent why that is. Overall, this was a great book. The characters are strong-minded, for the most-part. I also liked that the social rules of the time were threaded throughout the books. The fight against evil was superimposed upon the fight of the social hierarchy, and it blended well.

I wouldn't say this is a self-contained book, and the action picks up in the second(1) and third(2) books. The only real issue I had with this series is that it's told in first person present tense, which was something I hadn't encountered before(3). After about 100 pages, it no longer bothered me, as I was completely wrapped up in the characters and the story. This series is as much character-based as it is action-based, giving a good mix of the two.

  1. * Rebel Angels (US Pub. Date: 23 August 2005 [Hardcover]; UK Pub. Date: 2 July 2007 [Paperback]; 560 Pages [US Edition])
  2. **The Sweet Far Thing (US Pub. Date: 28 April 2009 [Paperback]; UK Pub. Date: 5 May 2009 [Paperback]; 848 Pages [US Edition])
  3. ***Since reading this series and joining a writers' forum, I've read many more stories written in first person present, and it seems that this is becoming more pervasive in YA literature.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Review: Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead

Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead

US Pub. Date: 1 March 2007 (Paperback)
UK Pub. Date: 1 August 2007 (Paperback)
496 pages (UK version)
Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy

Having only gotten into paranormal fiction in general over the past year or so, this was my first book about a succubus. I have read the Vampire Academy series, so I knew I liked Richelle Mead's writing. I was rather excited to start Succubus Blues, and I was not disappointed!  

Basically, this first book introduces us to Georgina Kincaid and a cast of characters (most of them her friends) on either side of the "struggle for good and evil". The characters all had individual personalities that shone through, often making me laugh.  

Throughout the book, we, along with Georgina, try to figure out who or what is stalking the immortals in Seattle. This gave me a nice element of mystery, which is really the genre of book I started out with a long time ago. I loved wondering whodunnit, following through the reasoning of the characters, questioning everything that happened, and generally trying to solve the mystery myself.  

At the same time, we see Georgina dealing with her feelings of being a succubus, especially after meeting two guys. On the romance end of things, there seems to be an overarching theme that stems back centuries (or millenia??) with Georgina of choosing between love and lust, which I found intriguing.

Overall, I loved this book. I loved Georgina, and found her funny, yet flawed. There seemed to be character growth over the course of the book, and the plot was interesting. I would recommend this book to others who like paranormal romance with a touch more plot and maybe a tad less romance than your typical romance novel.

Note: The previous books I've reviewed on this blog have been Young Adult. This one is not, and, therefore, has mature scenes (especially given the romance element) and language.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Blog Update

It looks like November is shaping up to be a busy month with work and writing. I hope it continues to be this busy, actually, because it means I using the degree I spent 23 years in school to get. Plus, I'm hoping to finish a writing a book. I haven't been writing long, and I think it will help my writing ego if I can at least finish something. :)

With that, I am setting a posting goal for myself, specifically related to this blog. I plan to post one review every week. That means on top of everything else, I'll have to keep my reading schedule in tact! That shouldn't be difficult since I have six library books and about ten books I own staring at me from the bookshelf.

There are several completed series I've read, and I'm still trying to decide if I should review them as a whole or individually. I think it will come down to whether or not each book is self-contained. But, I haven't completely decided. But, I will be posting some reviews from those series. I also foresee some non-YA book reviews coming soon, because a lot of the books on my shelf at the moment fall in the adult paranormal romance genre. Fun times!

If you have book questions about the books I've reviewed (or ones I haven't yet) or want to recommend something to me, email me! I've added an email address to my profile, so I should be able to receive and reply to emails.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

US Pub. Date: 1 August 2009 (Hardback)
UK Pub. Date: 5 October 2009 (Paperback)
448 pages (UK version)
Genre: Young Adult Romance with Werewolves

I'm active on a writers' message board, and when Shiver came out, this book was all I heard about. Generally, I'm disappointed when books are so hyped so much (with a few exceptions). I was even more wary when I asked about the book and was told that it had "beautiful prose". Anyone who knows me, realizes that I've had a hard time in the past with works of literature, mostly stemming from school. So, when I heard those two words, I immediately thought "Grapes of Wrath" or "The Scarlett Letter" and basically wanted to run the other direction. (No offense to readers who LOVE those books. They just didn't do anything for me.) 

That being said, I was intrigued by all the recommendations, and my library happened to have a copy available. The first several chapters were a little slow, but I think that may be a pattern with me based on the other reviews I've written. Luckily, the first few chapters were also incredibly short, and after that, I was able to easily connect with the characters. I think that was the point of this book, because there wasn't a lot of action. It was mostly character development, specifically the development of the relationship between the two main characters. I was emotionally tied to Grace and Sam almost right from the start, and the attachment grew and grew until the end.

This was one of the slowest reads for me in the last six months, not because it was boring or dense, but because I found myself wanting to savor the beautiful words. Because of the lack of heavy action that might have spurred me on to read this book in one sitting, Shiver had natural breaks where I could easily stop and think about what had just happened. It's also inspired me to go find some Rilke poetry, because I just thought the words were so incredibly moving.

To sum it up, if you generally like action-driven books, this may not be the book for you. But I would at least give it a chance, because I found myself being a lot more introspective while reading Shiver. That doesn't happen to me often. I loved this book and think I may even go buy it so I can have it on my shelves!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Reviews Coming

Since it's been a while since my last review, I just wanted to put out there that I have some reviews coming! Things got a little busy with work, and I haven't had a chance to type up the reviews. I'll have at least one new one this week.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

US Pub. Date: 1 September 2009 (Hardback)
UK Pub. Date: 7 September 2009 (Paperback)
400 pages (US version)
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian

This is the second installment of the Hunger Games trilogy.  Before I give my review, I'm going to warn that it assumes you've read The Hunger Games, so if you haven't read the first book and don't want to be spoiled, stop now. If you want the review, you can click below and it will show up.

After reading The Hunger Games, I could hardly wait for Catching Fire to come and was pleased when it arrived at my flat early. It did not disappoint. I literally couldn't put it down once I started reading, and my husband thought there was something wrong with me.

Click here to read the review

This book starts out several months after The Hunger Games ends, where Katniss and Peta are now housed in special part of town. There they deal with issues of guilt, not being comfortable in their new surroundings, and friendship problems. But, before they have time to dwell on their problems, the Capitol comes calling again.

Things haven't settled down after the Games, and the president wants Katniss to fix it during their tour of the districts. There's another secret up his sleeve that I won't spoil here, but let's just say, I was shocked.

Much of this book is the same as the last. There is action, some cute moments, some very horrific moments, and some other sad ones. While I didn't cry while reading The Hunger Games, I did while reading Catching Fire. Again, this book tested my limits on how I felt about humanity in general and the fairness of our lives, what we choose to do with them, and how we choose to live them.

Excellent read! Like I said before, I'll read these again!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

US Pub. Date: 14 September 2008 (Hardback)
UK Pub. Date: 5 January 2009 (Paperback)
384 pages (US version)
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian

This book wasn't that high on my list, but the library wasn't getting my other books in fast enough, so I resorted to reading it. I am SO glad that I did. Are you seeing a trend? It has to be one of the best books I've read recently. It's engaging and completely disgusting at the same time. The characters are very easy to identify and empathize (yes, I found myself imagining how I would feel in these situations) with.

Basically, 24 kids (ages 12-18) are chosen from the districts of a post-apocalyptic civilization to participate in The Hunger Games, a gladiator style spectator sport for the Capitol. It serves as a punishment for the rebellion of the districts in the past. As is stated early on, the Capitol is basically telling the people in the districts to be afraid, because they won't just kill them, they'll kill their children. That is exactly what happens in The Hunger Games.

There is definitely violence and blood, some parts being somewhat gory. It's these parts and those of how Katniss, the main character, tries to keep herself alive that brings the utter cruelty of the situation to fruition. Some might find this book disturbing, and indeed, I've seen some very negative reviews. However, most of the reasons for the negative reviews are the same ones that I felt made this book so good, so real. 

I will definitely be thinking about this book a lot, and have already read the second book in the trilogy (review to come). I plan to reread this series over and over again, if for no other reason than to remind myself how cruel we can be and how it is possible to keep our humanity even when it feels like we can't.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Review: The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong
US Pub. Date: 1 July 2008 (Hardback)
UK Pub. Date: 3 July 2008 (Paperback)
400 pages
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal

My friend recommended I read this book, and I put it off for a while, because I was entrenched in a really great adult paranormal romance. The thought of going back to a story with a 15-year-old protagonist wasn't extremely appealing. But, then I ran out of things to read, and it just sat there staring at me. As is usually the case, I'm glad I read it!

I had a terrible time getting into at first, struggling to keep myself interested enough to get past the first 100 or so pages. I even whined to my friend, who assured me that it got better. She was right, and the action picked up quite a bit about a third of the way through.

I found myself liking the characters or hating them (which is how they were written, so that's good), but I couldn't really relate to them. I think that had to do with age (I'm not a teenager). However, the story captivated me once I got into it, and I can't wait to read the next installment (The Awakening). I have high hopes that it will be even better now that I know the characters and am right in the middle of the action.

If you read this one and have a hard time getting into it at first, keep with it. I was glad I did!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Review: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
US Pub. Date: 29 April 2008 (Paperback)
UK Pub. Date: 1 July 2008 (Paperback)
352 pages
Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy Romance

Honestly, I was surprised how much I liked this book. I've never read books about faeries, so I was reluctant to pick this up. But, while I was at home, I saw a copy at the local used book store, and picked it up. I'd heard a lot about it and finally read it while I was waiting for some others to come in at the library.

I'm SO glad I read it. I was pulled into Melisaa Marr's world of the fey from the prologue, and stayed interested throughout the entire book. I loved the characters, their differences and why they were the way they were. I want to know more about them. I'll say that I was more in love with the human character, Seth, than the faery one, Keenan, but I think Marr set it up this way.

Marr did a great job building her world of the fey (faery folk) situated in a real-life (well, really fictional) setting. Although I expected to not buy into the whole fey world, I found myself captivated with the differences in the groups and their purposes and the lives that they lead.

Without giving anything away, I would recommend at least picking this book up and giving it a go. If you don't like it, that's ok, but it's definitely worth the try. If you do like it, you'll be like me--about to rush off to pick up a copy of Ink Exchange from the library!

Reviewing Books for the First Time

This morning I woke up with the desire to review the books that I have been reading over the last several months. Well, maybe I decided on it last night and finally got the gumption to post something today. Whatever it was, I sat down at the table and created a new blog, Book Reviews for Reluctant Readers.

"Why reluctant readers," you might ask. Well, because I would count myself as one. Until around March, I was much happier turning on the TV and drowning myself in the fantasy worlds that were not my own, whether that was a show about someone redesigning their home or one about supernaturals. Then I moved to the UK, where I now live with my husband. We didn't have a TV, and access to my American programs were limited. On the plane ride over, I watched Twilight. Then I bought all four books and devoured them in a matter of days.

Yeah, I know, people are mixed about the series. I'll have to agree, that I'm mixed about Twilight (It's been reviewed to death, so I won't be reviewing that particular series here). But, I have to credit Stephenie Meyer for somehow creating characters and a world that, while I may have conflicting feelings about, pushed me over the reading cliff, so to speak. I was lost to TV after that, even though we now have one. My husband thinks I'm crazy because I can't get my hands on enough books.

This blog is for people like me, who might not really like reading all that much or maybe just haven't found what they like to read. I won't say that everyone will agree with my reviews of the books posted here, because we all have different likes and dislikes. This is just my take on the things I've read. I've mostly been reading Young Adult Paranormal books but have recently branched out into some Adult Paranormal Romance. The reviews won't all be for paranormal books, that's mostly what I've been reading.

Also, there won't be negative reviews on here. If I don't like a book, I just won't post about it because chances are, I didn't finish it. There are other outlets for negative reviews, but this will not be one of them.

I hope you enjoy. The posts that follow this introduction will most certainly not be this long!